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Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, is made up of four different islands: Stadsholmen, Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg. Stadsholmen is known colloquially as “Gamla Stan” although all four are technically a part of the Old Town.
Between the different islands, Gamla Stan is home to several historical buildings including the Royal Castle and the Swedish Parliament. The islands are also home to three beautiful churches. Storkyrkan, or “The Great Church” and Tyska kyrkan, the “German Church,” are both located on the main island of Stadsholmen. Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholmens Church) is located, on, well, Riddarholmen, which means the “Knights’ Islet.”
The three churches give a glimpse of the religious and royal history of Stockholm and Gamla Stan. And you won’t pay more than 60 SEK (about $8 US) for the entire experience.
Visiting hours: 9 AM-6 PM Monday-Saturday; 9 AM-4 PM Sunday
Storkyrkan is the site of the last royal wedding of Sweden. It will also be the site of the next royal wedding of Sweden, as the Crown Princess and her fiancé are to be married there in June 2010.
Of course, it is not royal weddings that make the church so impressive. Instead it is the red brick, Gothic architecture inside. Highlights include the large statue of St. George slaying the dragon to the left of the altar and the beautiful paintings, some of which depict a Stockholm from hundreds of years ago. Plus, visiting the church is cheap. Between May and September you’ll have to pay 30 SEK, the rest of the year entrance is free.
Note: The Storkyrkan is closed for upkeep from January 11, 2010 to May 2, 2010.
Visiting hours: Tuesday and Fri: 9:30-11:30 AM and 1-4 PM, Wednesday: 9 AM-12 PM
Visiting Tyska kyrkan is free. Always. Built in the 1500′s, the church was the first German parish located outside of Germany. Mass in German is still held here every Sunday. Like so many centuries-old churches, Tyska kyrkan has seen several additions and renovations, the most notable after a large fire in 1878. This gave rise to the current church spire, which rises 96 meters into the Stockholm sky.
Visiting hours: 10 AM-4 PM in September and May; 10 AM-5 PM June-August (closed from mid-September to mid-May)
Riddarholmskyrkan is actually not a church anymore. By 1807, there were so few people living on the island that the city decommissioned Riddarholmskyrkan as a church and began charging admission. (Today, the island is said to have only one permanent resident, a man well into his 90′s).
Some people might argue that the beautiful black spire and the church’s wonderful architecture are reason enough to charge admission. However, it is actually what lies inside that attracts the crowds. Riddarholmskyrkan is the burial site of the Swedish royalty. For a stretch of over 300 years (1634-1950), all but one member of the Swedish royal family (Queen Christina who abdicated the throne) was buried in the church. Entrance to wander amongst old Swedish royalty is just 30 SEK, or 10 SEK if you’re a student.